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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

Sumo May Be Getting Bumped Off Its Pedestal

May 03, 2000|EARL GUSTKEY

Trouble brews in Japan in the sumo world.

First, former sumo wrestler Keisuke Itai caused a sensation in January by claiming many of his bouts had been fixed.

The very private Japan Sumo Assn. investigated and announced this week it had found no evidence to support Itai's charges.

Now the women's movement is knocking on sumo's door. Sumo officials have long banned women because the sport is rooted in the Shinto faith, which holds women to be impure, according to the Associated Press.

Fusae Ota, Japan's first female governor, said in February she wanted to present an award to the winner of a tournament. The sumo association replied that she wouldn't be welcome. Ota ended up sending a man to present the award.

Even sumo's centuries-old popularity may be waning, according to one expert.

"Go to the tournaments now and you see empty seats," said Ryohei Nakamura, editor of Ozumo, a popular sumo magazine. "That didn't used to be the case."

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Trivia time: Which odd batting record did the Yankees' Don Mattingly achieve 14 years ago today?

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A stickler: Famed fight trainer Emanuel Steward claims to have obtained a new method of clearing a fighter's head after he has been shaken up.

"I have an acupuncture move I can use that works immediately," he said.

When asked to demonstrate the technique, he declined.

"No," he said. "It cost a lot of money."

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Add Steward: "Most heavyweights don't have much heart. I can't really explain it. It seems like the bigger the body the smaller the heart."

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Flashman: Boxer Oscar De La Hoya, in an interview with the British sports magazine Total Sport, told this story about his father, Joel:

"My father had a weird way of dealing with me.

"One night when I was 15, I exceeded my curfew by a few minutes, and ignored my father's calls to come home. Then, all of a sudden, my father shows up in a dilapidated old robe. And he started flashing in front of me and all my friends.

"I was never more embarrassed in my life, which is why he did it."

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Add De La Hoya: In the same article, the boxer was asked about boos from Southern California's Mexican American community:

"People expect me to go back to the neighborhood and walk the streets--how can I do that? I'd probably get shot. I'd have to wear a bulletproof vest."

Guided tours: The San Francisco Giants are offering walking tours of their new stadium, Pacific Bell Park.

On days when there is no baseball, tour groups of 40 can visit the luxury suites, swing in a batting cage and inspect the visitors' clubhouse.

Hope someone picks up the socks and jocks.

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Social note: Jockey Chris Antley married ABC Sports field producer Natalie Jowett in Las Vegas recently, according to Sports Business Daily. Friends said they met during Antley's run for the Triple Crown with Charismatic last year.

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She gets no respect: The Houston Comets' Cynthia Cooper, on some journalists who cover the WNBA:

"I am so tired of ignorant journalists interviewing me. I am so tired of being Sheryl Swoopes. Why should I have to beg and plead for attention? Some journalists, they just don't care. They just don't put in the effort to treat women with respect."

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Trivia answer: Mattingly became the sixth major leaguer to hit three sacrifice flies in a game.

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And finally: Scott Ostler in the San Francisco Chronicle, writing about athletes' numbers being retired:

"In a very quiet ceremony, all of the NBA general managers got together and retired Dennis Rodman's phone number."

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